“The practice of architecture is the most delightful of all pursuits. Also, next to agriculture, it is the most necessary to man. One must eat, one must have shelter. Next to religious worship itself, it is the spiritual handmaiden of our deepest convictions.” – Philip Johnson
As an architect or a student of architecture, the mere mention of our career to a person outside the profession can almost instantly make a person raise their eyebrows with a hint of awe and intrigue followed by a string of misconceptions. For people who aren’t exposed to the field, architecture is either a sophisticated way to describe civil engineering or an arbitrary service meant only for the affluent. When the general public is introduced to the word “Architecture”, their mind tends to wander into a land of elaborate ancient monuments, tall glass skyscrapers, and brightly lit interiors. But architecture is not the mere construction of buildings, but the design of spaces and the knowledge of this fact continues to lurk in the dark for most people.
Understanding the Rudiments
Architecture in its very basic description is the design of interior and exterior spaces that keep in mind the context of the space’s location and use as well as the anthropometric and climatological comfort of the inhabitants. While this is quite easy for an architect to comprehend and relate to, a non-architect would find it comparatively difficult which leads to oversimplification of the profession’s goals. Architecture is being considered as the construction of monumental structures, which leads to an isolative approach to the field’s upliftment. The rudimentary purpose of architecture is to provide shelter for all, but in today’s world, more than 90% of our shelters are being erected without an architect’s involvement. The major reason for this downfall is the lack of quality communication between architects and the general public to explain the role of architecture in every context, be it small rural residences, multi-storeyed townships, expensive cafes, interactive coworking spaces, lush landscapes, or even prison cells.
The Passion towards Architecture
As individuals involved in the field of architecture, conversations about various aspects of the profession instantaneously seep into our daily lives. Our undying involvement towards the field is quite evident through these conversations and yet could be rather difficult for a non-architect to comprehend. This is because architects tend to slip into technical terms that can generally only be understood by fellow members of the fraternity. Although inadvertent at times, this could also be a voluntary action to prove the immense technical depth of the field as well the individual’s knowledge and skills. This has been detrimental to the spread of knowledge regarding the profession to the general public, and eventually affects the full-fledged impact that could be created by architects.
The most crucial section of non-architects that professionals must converse with in terms of architecture are the clients. Conversations with the clientele are quite different compared to other non-architects as this group of people have some amount of knowledge of the field to have approached the architect or have taken the effort to understand some technicalities in the recent past to conveniently utilize the architect’s services. Architects are required to converse with clients with utmost simplicity to make them understand their design requirements while also hinting at a few technicalities with in-depth explanations to increase their depth of knowledge about the product being received as well as the profession in general. Architects tend to understand the mindset of their clients, their requirements and decode their needs to provide them with accurate solutions while the clients also have the urge to understand their architects’ perspective and the eventual result of this partnership. These factors tend to sway the conversations between architects and clients into one of a much more interrogative tone.
The Compact Fraternity
The architectural fraternity is a well-knit and small community that is always enthusiastic to share knowledge, ideas, and references. But many times, this knowledge tends to remain within the community while the general public continues to stay in the dark. Architectural seminars, although hosted for all, are hardly attended by non-architects. Architectural blogs and magazines are also utilized by a very small population of eager non-architects. This disconnect is major since architects prefer to withhold knowledge as they consider it to be complicated for the public to comprehend and most non-architects are not interested in the topic as it has not been impacted upon them to take an interest in the subject. The lack of communication has turned into a vicious cycle that desperately requires reconnection.
Rethinking “Talking Architecture”
In order to incorporate the right perspective of architecture into people outside the profession, it is absolutely essential for architects to change their approach to information and education. The most elementary route of doing so would be by easing the technicalities of architecture upon the people. Explaining that architecture is guided more by the social, political, and environmental factors of the context rather than the technical details could bridge the intellectual gap and make architecture a much more relatable subject for all. Communication is beyond mere verbal explanation. Utilizing the power of diagrams, icons, colors, and other aesthetically pleasing visual elements could be instrumental in shifting the viewpoint of architectural understanding. People must also be exposed to the background of the entire process so as to understand and accept the architect’s design approach. Describing impact constraints and the context of technical changes in terms of architecture as well as business standpoints are also quite influential to impart the right knowledge about the profession. This shift in perspective would eventually draw the general public closer to architecture and its importance, and lead the world into a much more sustainable, impactful, and advanced mode of development. Great architecture speaks for itself, but unless architects voice its depth, every building would be a mere passing façade without a story to proclaim.
Advani, R. (2018). Talking architecture with non-architects. [online] Medium. Available at: https://medium.com/@advanirajesh/talking-architecture-with-non-architects-9d6e2dfb39cd [Accessed 10 Oct. 2021].
Random Acts of Architecture. (2018). Talking Non-Tech. [online] Available at: https://randomactsofarchitecture.com/2018/06/01/talking-non-tech/ [Accessed 10 Oct. 2021].
A-Z Quotes. (n.d.). Philip Johnson Quote. [online] Available at: https://www.azquotes.com/quote/699449 [Accessed 10 Oct. 2021].